In the 1990s, I had the opportunity to be part of a “Clown Exchange Program” with Le Rire Medécin. This meant I got to go to Paris for three weeks and clown around in six different French hospitals in Paris and Nantes.
I am not fluent in French. Well, actually that’s an understatement. I can’t speak a lick. But I soon learned that laughter has no accent. Working there wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Not knowing the language forced me to be more creative.
My biggest lesson, however, came during my third and final week there. My wife Lesley came over, and we did the usual tourist stuff: art museums, sidewalk cafés. In the Musée D’Orsay, something clicked! We were looking at this gigantic painting of men in a life boat on a storm-tossed sea, fighting a giant serpent. And I asked myself, “What was the artist thinking, painting such an enormous canvas? No one could hang it on the wall unless they lived in a castle. . . He painted it without electric light to see . . . Why would he put so much time and effort into one painting?”
Then I had my “aha” moment. That painting had lasted for centuries and was an amazing piece of art. My artistry is fleeting, but no less worthy. There’s only one reason I slather on the makeup and walk into walls: it’s the look on my audience’s face (be it one or many). Not a laugh, just a ” look” — this is proof of my artistry. I put my heart and soul into what I do, and while that “look” only lasts for a split second, the moment will be in their hearts for a lifetime. It’s something money can’t buy.